All of creationism in a single poster

I appreciate the brevity. The Discovery Institute keeps publishing long-winded vacuous books that say exactly the same thing in 900 pages.


That really is the entirety of their arguments: the fallacy that only design produces complexity, abuse of a metaphor about designers, and an incoherent mess of claims about morality. We’re done.

(via Twitter)


  1. serena says

    I like the progression of coffee cup < bicycle < automobile engine. Oh if only my bike would evolve into a car… *prays really hard to Evolutionism* LoL

  2. paulburnett says

    That’s a jet engine, not an automobile engine. But it was intelligently designed.

  3. Alverant says

    So how does he go from assuming there is a designer to assuming that designer is the christian god?

  4. weaver says

    You have the order reversed. He assumes the designer is the christian god, then he goes seeking “evidence” to support his conclusion.

  5. Amphiox says

    Bicycle to jet engine actually makes some degree of sense. The Wright Brothers started out as bike makers, and incorporated aspects of bicycle design into their flyers.

    The evolutionary link between coffee cups and bikes? We’ll leave that one to the imagination….

  6. mikeyb says

    A more succinct way of saying it is intelligent design = creationism.

    Politicizing it as cargo cult science to try to fool school boards and textbook makers would be a pretty lame move if we lived in an even modestly scientifically literate society.

  7. magistramarla says

    Yesterday I was reminded that I’m back in Texas among the loonies.
    I was at the local pool for the grandson’s swim practice, and one of the pool’s board of directors welcomed me back. Our conversation was interrupted by her home-schooled teen-aged son, announcing to his mother that he had just figured out “why those evolutionists think that they are right when they are all wrong”. He began to explain to her, using bible quotes, and there were several amens from other mothers and grandmothers seated nearby. Luckily for me, the mother shushed him and promised to continue the conversation at home. As an educator, I found this very sad. This is a boy with learning disabilities, and the mother is compounding his problems. What is even worse, she happens to be a prominent pediatrician in the area!
    I nearly made a snarky remark, but I kept my mouth shut. I knew that saying anything would make my own and my grandson’s lives miserable for the summer. Years ago, we were shunned at that pool because my husband and I took the teen-aged lifeguards’ side about playing music over the loudspeakers at the pool. The teens wanted to be able to play their popular music, and so did I, since I liked to do water aerobics to it. There were parents who complained and demanded that KLOVE (xtian music) be played or nothing. The lifeguards wisely chose nothing.
    I’m stuck here with no car during the day, so the grandson and I are stuck with the neighborhood pool that is in walking distance. It is miserable for me to live among the fundamentalist loons.

  8. frog says

    While ceramic coffee mugs may predate the bicycle (or at least ceramic drinking vessels and coffee both do), I’m certain that styrofoam take-out coffee cups do not. It’s a miracle!

  9. says

    @ Amphiox

    Bicycle to jet engine actually makes some degree of sense.

    Bicycle —> Cars is another one.

    Many bicycle manufacturers got onto the (then high falutin’) bandwagon, and started developing (electric, to their later chagrin) cars.

  10. A Hermit says

    That “complexity = design” bullshit drives me mad. The hallmark of GOOD design is simplicity. Anything that’s more complex than it has to be is not well designed.

  11. says

    The thing is, they never seem to really define what they mean by “complexity”. They say that more complexity means more design, but a handful of gravel tossed over your shoulder makes a very complex pattern, clearly without any design involved.

    So, I have to conclude that when they say “complexity”, they really mean “design”. They must think those words are synonyms, because they deliberately exclude any form of complexity that’s obviously not designed.

    As a result, all their “argumentation” really boils down to a naked assertion that the world is designed, followed by the assertion that they know who the designer is and what he wants you to do, especially with your money and your genitals.

  12. says

    And *of course* there’s the old ‘forgiveness’ canard with the instrument of hideous, agonising torture and slow death as an illustration. Just in case we weren’t absolutely certain they can’t be trusted to know what words are.

  13. says

    More complexity = more design. See, so since bird wings bones are more complex because they start out as a host of bones (that would have become articulated in terrestrial dinosaurs) rather than as just a few bones (as a good mere human designer would so design), they’re more designed. And since the coccyx is a complex of fused bones, it’s more designed than a simple muscle attachment would be.

    It’s all so clear now. Needless complexity = design!

    Well, it’s what the DI proclaims, if not in those words.

    Glen Davidson

  14. stephenewart says

    This design(er) argument is just weird.

    Have I ever seen a painting without a painter?
    No, but I have never seen a painting reproduce either so whats your point?

    Mugs don’t shag and planes don’t get pregnant regardless of how hard they bump of each other. Though Terry Prachett did argue that shopping trolleys are the larval stage of supermarkets.

  15. says

    Naturally “random” things are complex, and many designed things are intentionally simple. In the latter case, one engineering motto I’ve heard is that it’s not done when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away.

    We’re also talking about a boolean value: Designed or not designed. The mug, bike, and engine are all designed. They have different levels of complexity, but they are all designed. You’d think that’d undermine the assertion that complexity and design are related. There’s not even a comparison between designed objects with undesigned ones, which is kind of necessary to illustrate how to tell the difference. If they can’t tell us how to determine the difference between natural and designed objects, how did they come to the conclusion that life is designed?

    And to bring on a point from earlier, life’s complexity is actually an argument against design in many cases. There are so many clunky jury-rigged mechanisms we know of that argue against intentional design by any sort of super-intelligence. Life simply doesn’t look like the polished production of a tinkerer working from an elegantly designed blueprint. It looks more like someone randomly tweaking features on preexisting designs and keeping what works, no matter how clumsy. He does it over the course of generations, leaving all sorts of legacy kludges that can’t be fixed anymore. In other words, life looks like what evolution expects.

  16. says

    Funny how they show things designed by humans to prove god designed things

    Would you like the sniny-surfaced internets, or do you prefer the elegant matte finish?

  17. says

    Naturally “random” things are complex

    Well, all you need is a simple rule, which is then followed iteratively, and you get works of amazing complexity. Fractals are a simple example – wow, the Mandlebrot set is “complex” but all that complexity is just iteration of a simple rule. Amazingly differential survival and change is a simple rule, as well, which gives us evolution.

    If you look at New York City it’s not “designed” it’s an emergent collection of many smaller things which were designed according to simple rules. In a sense, New York City is just a bunch of wide-ranging variations on “building” and “electrical grid” and “water/sewage grid” and “roads” — only a blithering idiot or a creationist would say New York City was “designed”. It happened. It evolved, in fact.

  18. moarscienceplz says

    #9 magistramarla:

    I’m so sorry to hear that. A couple of weeks ago, I went to Tucson for my niece’s wedding. Apparently, one of the groom’s cousins is a fundie minister of some kind. He performed the wedding, which was not too bad although a bit more god-soaked than I hoped for. But it was at the reception that he really showed his stripes. He led a prayer that was SO loaded with “xtianity is the one true path” crap that I felt like I needed to run outside for fresh air. Ugh!

  19. phiwilli says

    Serious IDers should modify that “more complexity -> more design” to “more complexity -> more designers.” There isn’t A designer for jet engines, there are many, and different engines have different designers, or design teams. And jet engine designers don’t design smart phones – other designers do.

    So IDers should embrace a wide-ranging polytheism, not monotheism.

  20. crocodoc says

    At least they try to address that, usually by talking about “irreversible” or “specified” complexity.
    Irreversible complexity would actually be a really good indicator for design – if only there were any, anywhere, anytime. Specified complex things, according to William Dembski, display a large amount of independently specified information. Not that this definition clarifies anything, but at least they try to keep the argument alive, and now we have many more blurred terms to grapple with.

  21. says

    Serious IDers should modify that “more complexity -> more design” to “more complexity -> more designers.” There isn’t A designer for jet engines, there are many, and different engines have different designers, or design teams. And jet engine designers don’t design smart phones – other designers do.

    So IDers should embrace a wide-ranging polytheism, not monotheism.

    But they’re not talking about god or gods as the designer(s) at all. Just an omniscient and omnipotent designer (there could be more designers, but why would there need to be more for an omnicompetent designer?) who could do it all. Not god, no sir. Just something like god in every capacity.

    Glen Davidson

  22. says

    The real flaw is this: “God, although more complex than any known object, ever, and operating by mechanisms we cannot began to analyze, is a special case and has the ability to be complex without being designed or created.”

    It seems to be a brain quirk, the same one that makes us turn a line and two dots into a face. From an evolutionary point of view it’s important to assume that any and every possible sign means there’s another human in your territory.

  23. Moggie says

    That more complexity = more design bullshit always makes me laugh, having spent much time removing complexity. I suspect that anyone who claims more complexity = more design has never designed anything more complex than a sandwich.

  24. stevem says

    re Bronze Dog @24:

    If they can’t tell us how to determine the difference between natural and designed objects, how did they come to the conclusion that life is designed?

    But isn’t that their very point; i.e. “no such thing as ‘natural’, everything is designed!”

    re others: re polytheism vs monotheism
    Been watching too much “Alien Mysteries” on the History Channel.{WTF? History? really?} The “designer” doesn’t have to be God at all, just a super powerful alien that we saw and just called “God”. I know that was completely overlooked by “the Wedge document”, but even the least use of intelligence should be able to identify that possibility. Why do the IDiots contend that only God could be “the Designer”. A: because only God could design everything. Q: Why only one designer? A: Someone had to design all the other designers, donchaknow.

    {go no further, there be dragons here…}

  25. John Pieret says

    I’m guessing this is from some “creation science” kids’ project, I’m with magistramarla. I feel sorry for the kid. The adults can go to the hell they like to talk about but will never see.

  26. says

    Marcus Ranum @ 26: Er, did you mean to say “New York” there? Because if you look at New York, it’s a nice sensible clearly-numbered grid, mostly. Most of Manhatten is definitely a pretty deliberately planned city layout.

    Boston, on the other hand, seems to have largely “just happened,” hence this meme.

  27. birgerjohansson says

    The coffe cup might be a reference to the nutr-o-matic drink dispenser in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To the Galaxy, copying (reverse-engineering/designing) any hot or cold drink in the known Multiverse. But the customers who tried to get it to work did not find the resulting taste divine.

    — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
    I am sure the Eschaton might be able to design *both* a bicycle and a rather nifty jet engine on the same day.

    So we should all hope the Singularity comes soon, even if this is not what the good minister on the photo intended.
    — — — — — — — — — — — — —

    In regard to designing objects* related to traumatic things in the past, go to “Solaris”.
    Either the book or the 1972 film. The final scene was a quite good design.

    *Instead of “a God-sent person” you get an ocean-sent person (who is quite indestructible, do not bother trying with crosses).

  28. birgerjohansson says

    There is not just “one” God-given book. We have the wossname, apochrypic texts. And the destroyed gospels used by groups that were condemned as heretical after Nicaea. And that is just Christianity.
    There are several versions of the Quran, lots of books from India, cuneiform religious texts on clay tablets, papyrii from Egypt, The Book of Tao, “Analects” by Kung Fu Ze, Wossname by that Smith fellow, Gobbedygook by Hubbard, the elder Edda from Iceland…

  29. Rip Steakface says


    When I get the opportunity to design something in a video game (I’ll use the example of Kerbal Space Program), I inevitably end up making something atrociously complex until I remind myself that cutting down on extra parts and complexity will make it work better. In that game, it’s possible to achieve orbit, deorbit and land with exactly three parts (a specific engine, specific fuel tank, and one of a few available capsules). That design works incredibly well for the purpose of getting one Kerbal into orbit, far better than some of my early, much more complex designs.

    Skydaddy’s horrifically complex design is exactly that. As always, we have the classic examples, like the appendix and why the hell we use one given orifice for multiple things (e.g., mouth for breathing, speaking and eating) that can easily interfere with each other and cause illness or even death.

  30. brandthardin says

    Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

  31. playonwords says

    If complexity equals design then I’d like to meet the so-and-so who designed the knot my garden hose assumes when left in the shed over winter!

  32. says

    Hey PZ,

    Why don’t you pull your head out of your ass and respond to academic papers rather than this garbage? Is it because you’re a pseudointellectual blowhard that doesn’t really know what he’s talking about?

    Let me know,

    – Adam Santee

  33. Amphiox says

    You can’t respond to academic papers, Adam Santee, when there aren’t any.

    Why don’t YOU WRITE an academic paper on creationism, get it through peer review, and then, perhaps, if it is good enough, PZ can respond to it?

  34. rogerfirth says

    That’s a jet engine, not an automobile engine. But it was intelligently designed.

    I don’t know about that. It’s an RB211.

  35. says

    Bronze Dog essentially said what I wanted to say about the poster: If they believe God created everything (including dirt, which I assume they’d considered “not designed”), how can they tell if something is designed? Apparently God also creates things we considered “not designed” because obviously those things exist in the world, and they say the world was created by God.
    I also agree it’s hilarious that they chose things created by humans to show that God created the world. If those things were created by people, doesn’t that mean that God did NOT create them? Unless they claim that God gets credit for things created by people too? Then none of it makes any difference…I think I’ll stop musing here otherwise I’ll get caught up in a cycle of contradictions and confusion.

  36. Stacy says

    Adam Santee failed to articulate a coherent position, but to be fair, that would have required 1) articulating his thoughts in a coherent manner, and 2) Exposing himself to counterargument and possible laughter. And that’s hard.

    So I’m not sure what his beef with this post is, but working on the assumption that he’s pro Intelligent Design and when he says:

    Why don’t you pull your head out of your ass and respond to academic papers rather than this garbage?

    he’s referring to papers on Intelligent Design–just yesterday PZ pointed out the dearth of such. He quoted Jeffrey Shallit:

    Bio-Complexity, the flagship journal of the intelligent design movement. As 2012 draws to a close, the 2012 volume contains exactly two research articles, one “critical review” and one “critical focus”, for a grand total of four items. The editorial board has 30 members; they must be kept very busy handling all those papers.
    (Another intelligent design journal, Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design, hasn’t had a new issue since 2005.)
    By contrast, the journal Evolution has ten times more research articles in a single issue (one of 12 so far in 2012). And this is just a single journal where evolutionary biology research is published; there are many others.

  37. WhiteHatLurker says

    Bicycle, therefore people invented God.

    Think I’ll have that coffee now, lots of whisky, please.

  38. dianne says

    I don’t get figure 1. Am I supposed to conclude that the coffee cup wasn’t designed or what?

  39. birgerjohansson says

    The Czechs have invented a bicycle that can fly. Therefore they are cooler designers than God.

  40. Menyambal --- son of a son of a bachelor says

    That poster is very poorly designed.

    That’s a jet aircraft engine, and a fairly recent one. Bill Gunston’s book _The Development of Jet and Turbine Aero Engines_ makes it clear just how much intelligent design there was in the evolution of jet engines. There were fads and fashions and cockups and politics all over the process. The high-bypass feature that can be seen, even in that image, took years to develop gradually, even though it was known to be a good thing a long time back.

    Adam Santee, this is the place where PZ does his “garbage” work. Which is why you showed up.

  41. Menyambal --- son of a son of a bachelor says

    New York City was not designed. It grew in a weird way, like a fungus fitting into the environment. The clearly-designed part, the mid-Manhattan street grid, was a late overlay placed atop earlier confusion, and still has Broadway wandering through it like the cowpath it once was, is tilted far off North-South to fit the island, and has the mad streets of Lower Manhattan rubbing up against it. And the skyline, where there are clumps of tall buildings, that’s where there’s solid granite rock for sturdy foundations.

  42. DLC says

    Actually, the simpler the design the better. A bicycle could have 2 independent pedals, each one powering it’s own sprocket and each of those powering it’s own wheel. But the straightforward design is both simpler and more efficient.